Wednesday, July 28, 2021

America’s Longest War Unites Father, Son Fighting The Taliban In Afghanistan

A war which has stretched for about two decades being the longest drawn war in American History, Afghanistan has put a toll on the United States economically, politically, and even emotionally.

Recently, President Trump said that all U.S. troops on Afghan ground would be pulled back by Christmas, raising hopes of a concrete Intra-Afgah dialogue with the withdrawal of US troops.

However, the U.S. withdrawal from the country raises serious concerns. Now being the major deterrence and “policing” factor for the Afghans, Washington has successfully done what it does the best- toppling the previous government and putting more favourable people in the offices.

The election of President Trump in 2016 saw major developments towards ending the war, with the historic peace agreement with the Taliban signed back in February this year and paving way for the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha.

Trump’s announcements and the image of becoming a “peace-maker” via landmark peace pacts could prove to be vital for the Presidential Elections. The world is eyeing the selection of the most powerful man in the world and hoping to get their part of it.  For the troops on the field, its a rather emotional decision.

In a joint telephonic interview with Stars and Stripes, U.S. service members recollect their experiences talking about their own children now serving at the same posts they served about a decade ago.

“When we started this, people asked why I was going, and my response was, ‘So my sons don’t have to fight this war,’” said Master Sgt. Trevor deBoer, who has deployed to Afghanistan three times with the 20th Special Forces Group since 2002.

Sgt. Bajun Mavalwalla, left, and his father Capt. Bajun Mavalwalla, met in Afghanistan in 2012, when both were deployed to the country. TWITTER/BAJUN MAVALWALLA

Nearly two decades later, deBoer’s son, Spc. Payton Sluss, also served in Afghanistan — including at Forward Operating Base Fenty, north of the city of Jalalabad, where deBoer had served, the interview report mentions.

According to them, a lot has changed among the on-ground interaction with the Afghan population, and especially their troops for whom Americans are deployed.

“While deBoer watched films with Afghan troops, Sluss watched their body language, their weapon to ensure that they did not turn on the Americans who were training them,” JP Lawrence and Philip Wellman write for Stars and Stripes.

Indeed, no population would like the presence of a foreign power in their own country, ruled by puppet governments. Even during the February peace agreement with the Taliban, the Afghan government wasn’t even a party to it.

In his book “My Share of the Task,” Gen. Stanley McChrystal recalls an incident in Iraq:

“We left the building and emerged into the courtyard, hot under the sun and filled with the loud, low gurgling of Stryker engines. After the last of the forty or so Rangers loaded their vehicles, we departed.

We received a few shots – on the war to the target, but nothing dramatic, before stopping outside a rural Iraqi version of a strip mall- three or four low, one-story buildings, with a patch of concrete in front where vehicles parked.

As the rangers bounded out of the Strykers, I took my usual position towards the back, watching them set a perimeter and begin a search of the buildings. As always, I didn’t insert myself into tactical decisions on the ground. It was their responsibility and, I felt, their right.

Instead, over the past three years, I had learned to carefully watch the operators at work: After years’ worth of daily raids, their instinctive movements and mood often told me more about the situation than they could describe back at the base.

The Rangers moved quickly and gathered a group of local men from inside and around the buildings on the concrete parking areas in the front. To ensure security, as they moved to identify each man, they had him lie on the pavement with his hands behind his head.

One Iraqi was notably older than the others, and a young Ranger, without instruction, retrieved a white plastic chair for him from an automobile maintenance shop. As was normally the case, even in daytime, there were no women in the immediate area. But I say a boy, probably four years old, standing near one of these men, no doubt his father.

As the Rangers motioned for the men to lie down on the ground, I watched the boy. He stood quietly as if confused, then, mimicking his father. The child lay down on the ground. He pressed one cheek flat against the pavement so that his face was turned towards his father and folded his small hands behind his back.

As I watched, I felt sick.

I could feel in my own limbs and chest the shame and fury that must have been coursing through the father, still lying motionless. Every ounce of him must have wanted to pop up, pull his son from the ground, stand him upright, and dust off the boy’s clothes and cheek.

To be laid on the ground in full view of his son was humiliating. For a proud man, to seemingly fail to protect that son from similar treatment was worse.

As I watched, I thought, not for the first time: It would be easy for us to lose.”

General McChrystal’s observations can very well be applied to similar situations in Afghanistan.

Nevertheless, the ground situation of the Afghan people doesn’t seem to get better. Now, there are three main factions fighting against each other in the country- the Taliban, Islamic State, and coping with them the Afghan Government and its allied militias.

Currently, the NATO forces, although now restricted to only emergency duties, are stationed in major cities around the war-torn nation, majorly in the capital Kabul.

Bajun Mavalwalla, 31, a former sergeant, and his father also both deployed to Afghanistan. They even met up there in 2012. The elder Mavalwalla said the country has made great improvements since he first served there in 2002 with the 19th Special Forces Group.

But his son, who was barely a teenager when his father first went to Afghanistan, said he was disoriented when he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012. “I wanted to go out and help people, serve my country … (but) I just sort of contributed to this deepening mire,” he said.

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